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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)

Look, I've hung out around enough theater humans (and worse, SHAKESPEARE humans) to know that it's very popular to hate on this movie but I'll go to my grave defending it. It gets to the heart of this absolutely bonkers play and that's all Shakespeare ever would have wanted.


I saw this right at the beginning of my Shakespeare obsession. Saw it in theaters with my mom and definitely was not prepared for all the nudity. In hindsight, yeah, this is a nudey play. But 15 year old Shannon *did not understand* that aspect of Shakespeare. (By contrast, now, when I teach the Bard, my most often used phrase is "don't understand it? could it in any way be a dick joke? It's probably a dick joke.") I also did not understand the caliber of cast employed in this film. Heck, I only just today clocked Bill Effing Irwin as Snout. This was my first introduction to Sam Rockwell (though I don't think I realized that til way later - a shame, he's brilliant). This was also one of the few Kevin Kline films I saw before college and I loved him for it. His performance has colored all productions I've seen since because he gives such depth to a character that is totally okay being played shallow.


I love the setting, too. It's one of my favorite time periods for fashion but more importantly, I think the buttoned up nature of the clothing, contrasted with the rather sensuous hair styles, makes for an excellent juxtaposition with the fairies and the rampant sexual energy of everything that happens in the forest. That being said, I don't love the costumes. The fairies feel *very turn of the millennium*. I love the texture but it is, especially for Titania, overwhelming.


The older I get, the more I struggle to care about Titania and Oberon and their incredibly screwed up storyline. The sexual politics and incredibly murky issues of consent just... ugh. I can't like Oberon and with the exception of a few productions that shoehorn in agency for Titania (and it doesn't match the text, frankly), I can't cheer for her either. I only enjoy Bottom's end (tee hee) of it because, particularly with Kline, there's such a sweet melancholy to this mundane human being graced with a little bit of magic. I'm amused by the lovers because it's really well crafted. But my heart belongs to the rude mechanicals. I am a sucker for actors playing actors and they are so earnest and simple and they assume the rest of the world is earnest and simple too. They are goodness and passion and everything I wish theater really was.


And then there's Stanley Tucci. God he's so good as Puck. I wish he had more to do in this production. If fairies are real, I would totally buy he is one. Curiously ripped, impish, good natured, appreciative of life's pleasures (food!), a shape shifter. His physicality in this role and his facial expressions had me laughing than most anything else.


The grimacing emoji is my most used one BY FAR (online and in person) so this moment is my favorite thing.


"Bottom's Dream"

Wood, fabric, thread, glue, wire, paint, beads






Takeaways:

-Hoh boy. First, I will commend myself (grudgingly) for taking extra time on this one. Things have been really hard lately. This last week was physically and emotionally exhausting and even with two days home sick, I couldn't get any work done on this.

-Ultimately, I'm really pleased with how it turned out. I wanted to do three of the stumpwork flowers but holy crap did one take forever. Easily ten hours on that thing alone. This is only my second bit of stumpwork (stump work?), the first being the piece I did for Raiders, and waaaaaay more complex. I want to like it more - I love the effect - but I just felt like I was hiking through mud whenever I sat down to work on it.

-I'm crazy about how well the painting turned out. I'm kind of fascinated by my seeming inability to get soft, translucent colors on things. It's what I have in my brain (see also: Robin Hood) but stuff just turns out REALLY SATURATED lately. Which... philosophically I am a big fan of. I just wish I could get the control I want.

-I'm certain I had more to say about this but at this point, I'm just relieved I finished it. (I have Bob's Burgers playing as I write this and it's a Fischoeder heavy episode which tickles me. If you ever read this, Kevin Kline, I adore you. Thanks for being so delightfully weird and thoughtful in your roles.)


For this week, we've already watched Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition!) and between you and me, I. Am. Blocked. Let's see what I knock out on this one! I will probably be more surprised than you are!


Everyone seems really tired and run down these days. I hope this week finds you refreshed. I hope the road home at the end of each day is short, safe, and joyous. I hope there's magic all around you and it insists on being noticed and delighted in.



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